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Stress less, Moms

Making life easier

Are you familiar with the Amelia Bedelia book cover on which Amelia is running (and smiling) with perfectly rosy cheeks, a freshly baked pie in hand, her apron and shoes on, and even a cute hat on her head? She appears to have it all together in the midst of what is assumed to be a moment of chaos. Truth be told, many days I feel like Amelia. However, I'm in sweats, my hair is disheveled, I'm makeup-free, barefoot, and carrying a bowl of Raisin Bran above my head so my dogs don't get it. Sometimes I wonder if the kind of woman Amelia Bedelia represents truly exists. Never mind — if she does, I don't want to know about it.

Luckily, there are several products and habits that will make life as a busy mom easier to manage, and, at a minimum, make us feel as though we've got it under control. Here are some stress less tips for busy moms.

Stress less tip #1: Get a bluetooth

A bluetooth headset is a very important staple. As a busy mom, you will want to have conversations with other adults (possibly even telemarketers) just to keep in touch with the outside world. I always thought all those people driving their cars wearing bluetooth looked extremely silly. However, I will readily admit that they figured out a secret to surviving the madness earlier than I did. They can do whatever they are doing (in their case, driving) and talk on the phone at the same time. It's a beautiful thing. The headset phone allows you to talk while you cook, clean, change diapers, make bottles — you name it! Your neck will thank you, trust me. Invest in a headset for your current phone or get a headset phone altogether if your current phone will not accommodate a headset attachment.

Stress less tip #2: Chocolate

If you ever feel guilty about consuming this heavenly delight that can improve even the worst of moods, consider this: Chocolate is actually a vegetable. That's right, folks. Think of it this way: Chocolate is derived from the cocoa bean and bean equals vegetable, right? Sugar is derived from either sugar cane or sugar beets, both of which are plants — in the vegetable family. Thus, chocolate is a vegetable (plus, chocolate bars contain dairy, which is good for your bones). Need I say more?

Stress less tip #3: Paint it pretty

Color therapy was likely first practiced by the Ancient Egyptians, who shone sunlight through colored gems onto those who sought healing. Today, this therapy is used in many of the nation's premier spas as a way to soothe the frazzled mind and assist with meditation. Tones of blue have been shown to encourage relaxation and tranquility as well as inspire patience and calming thoughts. If it works with the neighboring rooms' decor, why not paint your primary work area a shade of blue? If blue simply will not work, know that greens and purples are also calming colors. Reds, yellows, and oranges, however, are stimulating. Try to avoid these colors in those areas where you spend a great deal of time. As I'm sure you're well aware, neither moms nor their kids need to be any more stimulated than they already are by 5:30 p.m.

Stress less tip #4: Buy 14,000 Things to be Happy About, by Barbara Ann Kipfer

I love this book. It is impossible not to find something on nearly every page of it that will evoke a fond or funny memory and make you smile even in your worst hour. I actually highlighted (way back when I had free time) my favorites so I could find them quickly. Some personal favorites: The Electric Company (TV show), funnel cake, and shorty skis. By the way, what ever happened to The Electric Company? Or 3-2-1 Contact for that matter.

Stress less tip #5: Visit 30-Day Gourmet

Are you as tired as I am of what I now refer to as the "4 o'clock panic?" This is when you stop to think, oftentimes out loud, "Okay, what are we going to have for dinner tonight?" (It's also usually about the same time your husband calls and asks the same question.) Until recently, five out of seven nights a week, that question was answered at my house with the word "cereal" or "pancakes." No longer. And not because I've suddenly become a devoted cook. I found out about a fabulous site product: 30 Day Gourmet. Their site allows you to download and test out for 30 days — and then order — a cookbook that will allow you to bake 30 nights' worth of meals in one "lazy Sunday afternoon" (as if such a thing exists anymore)! It can be modified, of course. Bake enough meals for two weeks if that's all you need. I am simply so pleased to be able to announce that "Tonight, we'll be having Chicken in a Pot. (Even though my four-year-old often responds with "Can't we just have pancakes?")

Stress less tip #6: Get a good chiropractor

What is the most common physical complaint of moms? Lower back pain. In a two-year study completed in 1990 by Britain's Medical Research Council, chiropractic treatment was found more effective than hospital out-patient care for lower back pain. Now, I realize that the image many of us get when thinking about getting a chiropractic adjustment is that of Madonna lying on a table having her neck whipped around in that Truth or Dare documentary of her Blind Ambition Tour, but I have become a firm believer in this alternative form of medicine.

I don't trust it to cure disease just yet, but in terms of helping my ever-aching back and neck, it's a godsend. According to Dr. Jennifer Wise, director of the Synergy Institute in Naperville, Illinois, "It has been my experience that integrating the arts of chiropractic and physical therapy in one setting benefits the patient, allowing them to achieve faster and more complete healing. As a chiropractor, I work to align the patient's skeletal structure, while our on-site physical therapist works with the patient's soft tissues to make the healing process occur more quickly. It is important to train the soft tissues to have memory and endurance so that postural correction is long lasting."

Stress less tip #7: Keep a small wallet

All moms know that given the opportunity, they could fill an L.L. Bean, large-sized duffel bag with supplies for a day away from home with their children. The key to not doing that (once you're truly beyond the "I have to take everything in the house with me" stage) is to ensure that your purse is not big enough to carry much more than the basic necessities. I make sure mine is only large enough to accommodate a wallet, cell phone, antibacterial gel, and SNICKERS bar. Same goes for wallets; buy a big one, and you're going to somehow acquire thirty credit cards (or a variety of Starbucks Buy-10-Get-1-Free cards and the like) and the poor contraption will be ready to explode at any moment. Find a wallet that is only large enough for your license, a credit card or two, and some cash.

Stress less tip #8: Claim your quiet time

Joseph Campbell said, "You must have a certain hour of the day when you do not know what was in the morning paper — a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are, and what you might be." This time has become even more important in my daily routine than taking a shower (and many days, trust me, I do trade one for the other!). Life is a journey. Oftentimes, we feel as though we're lost and the map is missing somewhere under a big pile of toys. Who are we? What are we here for? What will we do with ourselves when our children actually leave the house one day?

Spending some spiritual quiet time each morning and/or evening is invaluable. It can keep you centered and focused, and remind you that there is something so much greater than you at work in your life. That fact allows me to let go of my need to control everything (at least for a moment or two). Three great books to get you started on your journey:

Stress less tip #9: Get a cell phone

If you don't have a cell phone by this point — for any reason — I beg you to get one this evening. All women should have one for safety's sake. I'm certainly not encouraging anyone to have conversations while driving; however, I personally feel quite naked if I get halfway down the block and realize that I've forgotten my phone. While out and about, it's comforting to know you can be reached at any time if one of your children needs you.

Unfortunately, the most life-altering sanity-saver for busy moms has not yet been invented. I envision it as a robot of sorts that does everything from cleaning to cooking to dressing kids for school. One day, perhaps. For now, I'm sticking with low expectations and a HERSHEY'S Bar.

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